Graham Baron Ash

Baron Ash reading in the bay of the Great Hall

On 29 September 1904 Alfred Ash, second generation industrialist and confirmed suburban dweller, bought at auction the Packwood estate of approximately 134 acres. When asked why he had done it, he is reported to have said: ‘I bought it because the Boy wanted it.’

The ‘Boy’ was his only son, Graham Baron Ash, who was just 16. For the next 40 years Baron Ash, as he liked to be known, was to be the meticulous restorer, furnisher, decorator and beautifier of Packwood.

The Ash family seated around the fireplace
The Ash family seated around the fireplace
The Ash family seated around the fireplace

Baron Ash was a complex mix of typically English reserve and true courage, deeply buried emotions and party-loving generosity. His aspirations seem to have masked a degree of social insecurity which surfaced in an almost obsessive concern for correctness in every aspect of his life.

Work in the family firm of Ash and Lacy was interrupted by the outbreak of war in 1914. Initially Baron Ash volunteered for the medical corps, but was later transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, however after wrecking four aircraft, he transferred again, this time to become a Balloon Observation Officer.

" A perfect gentleman always"
- Horace Stanley, butler at Packwood (1936-1939

Aged 21, Baron Ash travelled to America, Canada, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Burma, India, Egypt, Italy and Switzerland. He kept a diary in which he recorded the cultures he encountered. While in Amoy, he visited a temple ‘in order to bribe one of the priests to sell me one of the roof decorations.’

A long life of haggling with antiques dealers had begun.